Connected Giving | February 2020 edition

Welcome to the February edition of Connected Giving, Australian Executor Trustees monthly update on current trends and news in philanthropy.

Philanthropy's role in medical research

Coronavirus, now officially known as COVID-19, has captured the world’s attention and highlighted the importance of preventative medical research and strong public healthcare responses. Philanthropy has historically played a central role in combating such large-scale disasters worldwide, such as the Rotary Foundation’s support of ending polio.

In this month’s edition of Connected Giving, we take a look at the crucial role philanthropy plays in medical research, global healthcare systems, and its recent response to the unfolding COVID-19 emergency.

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Jump to any one of the edition’s articles by clicking the links below:

When scientific research can’t get federal funds, private money steps in

In an era of dwindling federal funding for science programs and medical research, large donors are stepping in to fill the void in a way that federal funding could not. The donors on the Philanthropy 50, The Chronicle’s list committed $1-6 billion to causes that range from expanding research at children’s hospitals to creating new centers that will investigate the workings of a human cell. Philanthropic gifts should not replace federal funding of research, but can play an important role in jump-starting new or stalled areas of research. Gifts can allow more time and a longer time frame for researchers to explore issues, with the right support. Read the full article (8 mins).

A reflection on the increasing importance of private capital in medical research

Private philanthropic foundations are a small, but increasingly crucial source of innovative medical research and development funds within a reality of stagnating federal and state contributions to research across the US. Philanthropic funding can also be important for funding research on neglected diseases, where the condition only affects a small portion of the population, but private funding can revolutionise how cures for rare underfunded diseases are pursued and developed. Read the full article (6 mins).

How four philanthropists are innovating medical research

Currently the bulk of medical research funding comes from the drug industry and the government, each arousing concerns regarding conflicts of interest and consequences of funding cuts. Philanthropists, while only supplying a small percentage of medical research funding, their ability to take risks, fund research for rare diseases, and create their own processes will be crucial to the future of medical research. This can be seen with the effects on medical research and awareness that high profile philanthropists such as Michael J. Fox, Bernie Marcus, Mike Milken, and Herb and Marion Sandler have done. Read the full article (7 mins). 

WHO works to strengthen vulnerable healthcare systems worldwide

As COVID-19 continues its deadly rampage, the World Health Organisation is rightly drawing attention to the risks the virus poses to the poorest and most vulnerable nations. As thousands of Chinese citizens will return to their jobs on the African continent, the risk of COVID-19 reaching countries with fragile healthcare systems increases. As a result, the WHO has scrambled to provide diagnostics, expertise, and equipment to detect and contain the virus, also appealing of  $675 million to assist vulnerable countries. This funding figure is projected to last until the end of April, however a long-term commitment to developing these healthcare systems is complex, but necessary. Read the full article (7 mins). 

Coronavirus: the huge unknowns

A few years ago, the World Health Organisation published a list of pathogens which needed urgent scientific attention. All were viruses with no known treatments or vaccines, all with the potential to trigger pandemics. Added to the list was Disease X. Disease X referred to “a serious international epidemic caused by a pathogen currently unknown”, which COVID-19 threatens to become. And this is not going to be the last outbreak of a previously unknown disease, says Oxford University’s Professor Lang. “We must strengthen research capabilities of nations where new diseases emerge but which currently have the poorest ability to respond to the emergence caused by these viruses”. Read the full article (8 mins). 

The Gates Foundation promises $100 million to fight the coronavirus outbreak

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $100 million toward the global response to the coronavirus epidemic. In a press release, the foundation said that the funding will take aim at detection, isolation and treatment efforts, as well as developing vaccines, treatments and diagnostics. The funds will be channeled toward multilateral organisations, including the World Health Organisation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as to health authorities in China and other high-risk countries. As demand for aid in response to the coronavirus epidemic rises, philanthropic organisations have made high profile commitments to helping. Read the full article (6 mins). 

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